Disclaimer: I am without the rights. This disclaimer prevails for any and all chapters of this fic.
This is the fourth instalment in Inkverse – after "Ink," "The Parting Glass," and "Jumping Fences," in that order. All are one-shots, and I highly recommend reading them before continuing with this. Otherwise, it's AU and pre-canon, and picks up where "Jumping Fences" left off.
The quote is borrowed from Mignon McLaughlin. (The Neurotic's Notebook, from 1960.)
And a happy birthday dedication to gilmorefanforever! You know I love you.
Feedback is embraced. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: Devil's Handiwork
So stupid, you think, to have this weakness.
You have Rory. What in God's name were you thinking?
The line falls to you, simply, obviously, mockingly. Few of us write great novels,all of us live them.
Whoever's writing your novel (not you, you don't want that power, and if it you, you're an idiot) has a twisted sense of humour.
You finish pouring your cup of coffee and turn off the light switch. It may be four o'clock in the morning, but what with you obsessing and analyzing and agonizing, there hasn't been a whole lot of sleeping going on.
You'll need the jet fuel to deal with your munchkin.
Rory talks non-stop through the entire morning until you drop her off at school. Not once does she mention Luke's. You breathe a sigh of relief, waving good-bye to her. "Love you," you say.
"I love you, too, Mommy," she says.
"Now go be smart." You give her a gentle push.
"Bye!" she waves, running to Lane. The two girls start giggling and talking and you wish everything was as simple for you as it is for Rory.
You're running up the stairs, taking two at a time, flying, skirt blowing, ready to…
"Lorelai?" Mia calls.
"Yes?" you say, turning around. You're supposed to be training another new girl because Maggie has gone on maternity leave and Leah has just come in today, but you pause, hand resting on the banister.
"Could I speak to you for a moment?"
"Sure," you reply.
There's that quick flutter in your stomach, that sliver of fear wedging in your brain, the one that never really has gone away: the fear of something going wrong. Of being in trouble. Of not being good enough. You know Mia would do anything in her power to make sure you stayed at the inn, and you know that you're needed at the inn, but you still have that nagging feeling behind it all.
The secret fear that everyone has.
You follow Mia into her office – you bet, not for the first time, that everyone you used to know would be surprised to see you so obedient. She shuts the door and you wait for her to sit, the scared schoolgirl.
You aren't so far removed from that, now are you?
"Lorelai," she begins, "I've been thinking of doing some changes around here – ever since Maggie announced her leave."
"Oh?" you ask. You are reduced to the polite employee, speaking only when spoken to and getting charged by the word.
She gives you a look and you allow a smile. "Unclench," she says, quietly. "It's nothing awful. In fact, it's quite good!"
"Really?" you say.
"Of course," Mia replies. "What did you think?" You say nothing, and she laughs slightly. "There's been an opening, and you, my dear, are the happy recipient of a new job offer."
"Mia, I -"
"There'll be a raise, as I'm sure you'll be happy to know. It means about the same hours, too…" She shuffles some papers and looks up at you. "How would you like to be the head housekeeper?"
"Really, Mia?" You clap your hands together, and you can feel the blush of excitement. You hug her. "Thank you!"
"I'm sure you saw it coming," she says, matter-of-factly.
"No, I…" you trail off, because, really, you haven't been thinking about that kind of thing like you usually are.
Mia laughs again. "I'll discuss the rest with you after supper."
"Yes, sure," you say.
She smiles, and shakes her head. "Unclench," she repeats.
You shut Mia's office door, and lean beside it. Laughing because you're so happy, or crying because you're so happy.
"So, guess what?" you say, wandering into the kitchen.
"What?" Sookie promptly says.
"I'm rich!" you exclaim.
"Did you win the lottery?" Sookie asks.
"Did you rob a bank?"
"Yes. At lunch. Me and Kissin' Kate Barlow."
"I got a promotion."
"Oh, sweetie, that's great." Sookie leans to hug you, and you step back, seeing a knife.
"Sook?" you say, nervously.
"Oh. Sorry." She giggles and then hugs you.
"Okay, I'll talk to you later."
"Where are you going?" she asks.
"To get Rory."
She skips along the sidewalk, jumping over the cracks. You get to the brick part, and she only walks on every second one, balancing. You hold her hand to keep her from falling. "So, what are we going to do now that we're rich?" you tease.
"Can we go to Disneyland?" she asks.
"Not that rich, babe." You explained to her that you were going to be a little busier at the inn from now on, and that meant some more money, but you're not too sure on how much she understands.
"Lindsey says the lines are really long, anyway." Rory trips a little, before going on. "Can we go to Luke's?"
You feel your face growing hot – hot enough to melt all of the snow and maybe all of the polar ice caps. You always thought the description of something being burned into your skin was stupid, but you can feel it there, and God, Rory's staring at you…you clear your throat loudly, trying to stall. "Well, hon…"
"Please?" she begs, tugging on your hand, turning those eyes on you.
"Fine," you concede, allowing yourself to be dragged into the diner.
It's crowded and you and Rory are able to slink to the only free table in the place without being noticed by Luke. Round one, and you are safely hidden.
Rory squirms on the seat, looking around. "What are we going to buy, Mommy?" she asks.
"I was thinking…a car," you say. "You know, so we don't have to walk everywhere in this town."
"A car?" Rory says. "Really?"
"Yeah. You want to help pick it out?"
You see Luke over the crowd, heading for the table. You snag a menu, burying your face.
You see the intensity of his eyes, his hand coming to brush your jaw, his lips getting closer to yours.
Cheeseburger or soup. Very important decision.
You bring the menu closer to your face.
You feel a tear run down your cheek. You feel his lips on yours, lightly; you feel your hand slide to his cheek.
You're a brilliant shade of pink by the time that Luke edges through the crowd to your table. "Uh, hey," you say, your voice high. Stupid!
"Hey," he says. You can feel him trying get a look at you. "Ready to order?"
"Coffee," you mumble, still staring at the menu. "And…uh…a cheeseburger. And onion rings."
She tells him, and he leaves, and you wilt a little.
You're not good at this at all.
"He did what?" Sookie squeals.
"Sookie, God, shut up," you say, pressing a hand to your temple. The image of Wile E. Coyote falling off of the cliff too many times seems familiar to you. Between your utter failure in the diner earlier, and the fact that you barely slept, hammers are a knocking. "We kissed once. No big deal."
"But – but…but! You – and Luke! Kissed!" Her exclamation is a whisper now, and for that, you are grateful.
"Just a kiss. No big deal."
She waves a spoon around – instinctively, you duck – and hugs you. "This is great, really great Oh, do you think you'll go out?"
"Hello. Six year old. Me. Not on the list of things guys my age look for. 'Hi, I'm Lorelai Gilmore. And can I get home by nine because my kid will start to freak if I'm not there when she goes to sleep?'"
"Luke is different," Sookie says. "He gave her a bike when he didn't even know you."
"He still barely knows us."
"He hates kids and listens to everything Rory has to say." Sookie looks triumphant, as if your daughter's charm has somehow willed Luke to you.
"I think we need to talk first," you say. "About it. Like adults."
"You haven't talked yet!" Sookie's eyes are wide. She drops the spoon and pushes you to the door. "Then go talk!"
Three steps, four.
You can do this.
You need to do this.
You need to air it out of your system. You need your questions answered.
A real talk about it.
You haul open the door of the diner, a woman on a mission.